I almost forgot to fill out my NCAA tournament brackets this year. Yes, I said brackets, as in plural. My multiple brackets are not quite as degenerate as they may sound. I always fill out one bracket every year for the office pool that I've been in since before I moved from California to Michigan. That's one of my big-money gambling ventures of the year, since the entry fee is twenty bucks. I've come close to winning a couple times, but haven't yet recouped my losses. The former-IAC lunch crew thanks me for my continued generosity.
This year I also filled out another bracket for a pool with some guys from the fantasy baseball discussion board that I frequent. That competition's just for pride.
Whenever I enter more than one pool, I always enter the same bracket. It keeps my rooting interests clear and pure. So my multiple brackets are really just a single bracket in multiple pools. Though Google will undoubtedly throw a few "gambling-problem hotline" ads on this post, I haven't yet become degenerate ten-brackets-in-the-office-pool-to-cover-all-contingencies guy.
And I'm hardly likely to conduct in-depth odds regressions, or to research the scoring and rebounding statistics of the bench players for the #15 team in the East. Mostly I just try to pick teams that I will root for, while keeping in mind that the seedings are usually right. That doesn't sound very scientific, but I've finished above the 90th percentile nationwide the last two years by ESPN's reckoning. So, I figure I'm doing okay. (We do our office pool on ESPN.com, and in addition to tracking your pool, they let you know how you're scoring against all ten-million-plus entries in all of their pools.)
So, how did I almost forget to fill out my brackets? Especially since this event is hyped to the hilt annually and got an extra special Presidential boost when the O-Man released his own picks this year?
I guess I'm so used to ignoring all the ridiculous hype every year that I tuned it out too far this year. Somehow after all the weeks of hype I had forgotten that the tournament finally started this morning. So last night around 1 am, as I was getting ready to head up to bed -- having already stayed up way later than I should while watching the Cuba-Japan elimination game in the World Baseball Classic -- I was suddenly struck by the thought that the tournament really did start the next morning. For some inexplicable reason I thought I had one more day.
Both brackets were filled out fifteen minutes later. I spent approximately twelve minutes digging up the two e-mails with the passwords, and about three minutes making my actual picks. This is a good deal less than the five or six minutes that I usually spend on my picks. In previous years I have even been known to at least read a newspaper story on the entrants before picking teams.
So, I said that I was playing twenty bucks in one pool and for pride in the other pool. How am I doing? I take great pride in having flushed twenty bucks down the drain on what is not just the worst bracket in pool, but is apparently one of the worst brackets in all the nation. ESPN has me somewhere around the 7th percentile nationally. This means that 93% of entries are doing better than me. And, since in a moment of 1 am delirium I picked my alma matter #14-seed Cornell to knock off #3-seed Missouri and sneak into the Sweet Sixteen, I rather suspect the decline will continue.
Brackets selected by a parrot that randomly selected seeds from a printout of the matchups are beating me right now. I badly trail -- not just trail, badly trail -- brackets selected by three-year-old children and by blindfolded dart-throwers.
I can't imagine what went wrong. "Wait until 1 am and then make your picks in a three-minute frenzy" still sounds to me like a perfect strategy for this event.